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November 7, 2014

KDrama Word of the Day: Opta (Doesn't Exist)

Several empty green bottles

미안 해, 소주가 없어요 ㅠㅠ

Opta 없다 is today’s KDrama word. It is heard frequently in KPop as well as in Korean drama, most often in the form 없어요, pronounced “opsuhyo” or “opsawyo” (present tense, polite).

For the most part, Koreans make a verb negative the same way we do, by putting it in a negative sentence: I run. I don’t run. However, a few Korean verbs have an opposite, so instead of using the same verb for both positive and negative meanings, there are two separate verbs. Opta 없다 is one of these negative verbs.

Literally, 없다 means “doesn’t exist.” This sounds like it would be similar to our verb “to be,” or to the verb “not to be,” if we had such a thing. However, opta is used more like our verb “to have.”

For an example, let’s use yesterday’s word, 돈 (money). 돈이 없어요 “toe-nee opsawyo” translates literally as “there isn’t any money” (or money doesn’t exist). But in Korean, it’s what you would say if your budget was tapped out for the week. Since money troubles are a theme in almost every Korean drama, you will hear that sentence a lot!

If you are really getting into Hangeul and are very observant, you may have noticed that the ㅅ in opta (없다) is pronounced like a T, but in opsawyo (없어요), it’s pronounced like an S.

Unlike English, vowels in Korean are very consistent. There are not 8 possible ways to pronounce each one of them. Consonants are another story, however. Depending on their position in a character block and what letter follows them, characters can completely change their sound. These changes are called “transformations.”

Maybe that’s is why character transformation is so common in Korean drama :)

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